Have you ever been on an airplane going through severe turbulence? Everyone is trying to carry on as normal but it’s almost comical. Drinks going everywhere, people in expensive suits staggering down the isle to the loo. Trying to get your fork-full of duck a la orange into your mouth while the person next to you brings theirs back up into a bag.
The first century city of Philadelphia was being physically shaken. Volcanic ash made the surrounding land fertile and the city prosperous but earthquakes made it a rather tricky place to carry on life as normal. In AD 17 one particularly big earthquake actually levelled the whole city and subsequent aftershocks forced many to live outside it’s walls. Everyone was trying to get on with their lives, with all the refined Greek culture, architecture and philosophy while the earth is literally shaking beneath their feet.
The world is being shaken today too; Physically and financially, psychologically and relationally. It’s getting harder to feel secure in the world with earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, nuclear meltdowns, global recession, international terrorism, wars and epidemics. On a personal level family breakups, eating disorders, loneliness, worthlessness, isolation, depression, anger, guilt, and rejection seem to be on the increase and all the time we try to go about life as if nothing is wrong. It makes me stop and assess how secure my life is. How much shaking can it take? Where is it going? 1 year, 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years form now? What is my hope based on? How secure is that?
When you get shaken around on a bus you can hold onto those things that hang down from the roof. But how much good would that be if the bus drove of a cliff? When that happens you are better off grabbing hold of something outside of the bus. Do you remember the scene in Jurassic park when the trailer is hanging of the cliff and the lady is lying on the glass at the back of it looking down on the ravine below? Just in time they secure a rope to a tree and lower the other end down to her. As the trailer rushes past her she hangs onto the rope and climbs up to solid ground. When life starts to shake what do you hold onto?
Jesus introduces himself to the church in Philadelphia as holy and true. Holy means totally other than, separate from. It means “outside the bus”. You won’t find anything firmer than the truth so when things shake, and they will, there is no one better to hold onto than Jesus, the holy and true one.
These guys have little strength but they are holding on to Jesus. You don’t need much strength to hold on to Jesus. In fact I can say with complete confidence that you have enough. You may feel like you have no energy left, emotion, physical, psychological. You say my strength is so little as to be almost nothing. That’s just the right amount to take hold of Jesus. The weaker you are the stronger his hold on you. Your less likely to wriggle around and pull away from him. Taking hold of Jesus is like nothing else. It’s personal and powerful and as you take hold of him it becomes abundantly clear that he has taken hold of you.
Jesus isn’t that impressed with our strength or accomplishments. The size of your business, or church. How do you measure yourself? Jesus says to the church in Philadelphia “I know you have little power but you are holding on to me. Good choice!”.